Social Worker of the Year Awards 2013: The Winners

    Full details of who won what at this year's social work awards

    Patricia Fifield (centre) receiving the Overall Social Worker of the Year and Adult Social Worker of the Year awards from awards founder Beverley Williams and James Rook, managing director of headline sponsor Sanctuary Social Care. Photo: Image Source/Matt Grayson

    The results of the 2013 Social Worker of the Year Awards are in. The awards, which took place tonight at the Lancaster Hotel in central London, celebrate the achievements of social workers and saw 12 outstanding individuals and teams come away with trophies.

    Winners include Patricia Fifield of Warwickshire Council, who was named Adult Social Worker of the Year and Overall Social Worker of the Year, and Peter Gilbert who was recognised for his outstanding contribution to the profession. Here’s the full list of who won and you can find out all about their achievements below:

    Overall Social Worker of the Year: Patricia Fifield, Warwickshire County Council

    Adult Social Worker of the Year: Patricia Fifield, Warwickshire County Council

    Children’s Social Worker of the Year: Amanda Beaufoy, Worcestershire County Council

    Outstanding Contribution to Social Work: Peter Gilbert

    Lifetime Achievement Award: Jenni Randall, independent social worker

    Team of the Year – Adults: Hospital In-Reach Team, Bracknell Forest Council

    Team of the Year – Children’s: CATCH Team, Buckinghamshire County Council

    Team Leader – Adults: Tracy Cullen, Salford City Council

    Team Leader – Children’s: Michelle Newman, Plymouth City Council

    Employer of the Year: Derbyshire County Council (Adult Care)

    Practice Teacher of the Year: Brian Mitchell, Calderdale Council

    NQSW – Adults: Ruth Aten-Shearwood, Derbyshire County Council

    NQSW – Children’s: Jennifer Skirrow, Southwark Council


    Overall Social Worker of the Year: Patricia Fifield, Warwickshire County Council

    Adult Social Worker of the Year: Patricia Fifield, Warwickshire County Council

    Patricia Fifield

    While the average social worker leaves the profession after eight years, Patricia Fifield’s career stretches back 41 years. For the last 25 years she has been working at Warwickshire County Council, where she is currently an adults, older people and physical disabilities social worker in Rugby. Her years of experience shine through in her work and her relations with her colleagues. Patricia’s empowering, person-centred assessments have been held up as examples of best practice within the authority and her colleagues credit her with a natural ability to put service users at ease.

    On top of managing her own caseload, Patricia is generous when it comes to sharing her knowledge with others on her team, supporting them with complex cases and, in her role as a practice educator, helping foster the next generation of social workers. Patricia is also a social worker who approaches change with a positive attitude and she was quick to embrace the potential of direct payments and personal budgets for allowing her to work with service users in innovative ways. Her professionalism and expertise also make her a role model for those she works with. As one of her colleagues says: “If ever me or my family need a social worker, I hope it can be Pat.”

    Back to winners’ list

    Children’s Social Worker of the Year: Amanda Beaufoy, Worcestershire County Council

    Amanda BeaufoyIf anything one thing captures why Amanda Beaufoy is the Children’s Social Worker of the Year, it’s her approach to the case of a violent nine-year-old boy.

    Everyone else had given up on the boy. He had been shut out of school and mental health services considered him such a threat to staff that they refused to work with him. One professional even went so far as to describe the child as ‘evil’ and recommended putting him in a secure psychiatric hospital. Amanda disagreed. Despite her own risk assessment highlighting the danger the child posed to her, Amanda refused to give up on him and set out to devise a better plan for his future. As a result of Amanda’s determination the boy was placed in residential care where he got the support and stability he needed. Today he is back in school, calm and happy. Such is the improvement that the intention is for him to return home when ready.

    Amanda, who qualified three years ago, is a social worker who never shies away from a challenging case and whose balanced, detailed, readable and accurate reports are never late. She is also a team player, supporting colleagues with their work and volunteering to join working groups on service redesigns. Her achievements are made all the more impressive when you learn that Amanda has been profoundly deaf since birth – a disability she overcomes with lip reading and an understanding of body language so good that professionals and service users alike are often unaware that she is deaf.

    Back to winners’ list

    Lifetime Achievement Award: Jenni Randall, independent social worker

    Jenni RandallIt has been more than 40 years since Jenni Randall started a social work career that has transformed countless lives. From her beginnings in Essex, where she helped set up the country’s first intermediate treatment team to divert teenagers from crime, to her more recent work as an independent social worker in Cornwall she has left an impressive legacy of improved lives and enhanced services in her wake. A significant part of her career was spent in residential child care, starting with the Corve Lane home in Thurrock. Under her leadership Corve Lane became a pioneering home run by children and delivering treatment on, rather than off, site.

    After Corve Lane, Jenni went on to transform many other residential homes and in doing so the lives of those living within them. As Dr Ruth Nissim, a consultant clinical psychologist who worked with Jenni when she ran St John’s in Northampton, recalls: “When I arrived at the establishment prior to Jenni’s appointment, I found the residents were receiving no treatment of any kind for mental health issues and precious little for physical health either. The ethos of the home was custodial and the regime altogether antiquated. Under Jenni’s leadership St John’s was transformed into a therapeutic community where individual, group and family therapy were available to residents on site in a service especially tailored to their needs and predictaments.”

    Despite her management roles, Jenni has remained a lifelong supporter of the children she worked with. As one former client says: “When I left care, like many others, I went straight into custody. With no other support available to me, Jenni again came back into my life to make sure I didn’t fail. On leaving prison, she was there to make sure I kept my flat, got into voluntary work and begun to make a decent life for myself. She is not like a mother to me as she always had clear boundaries but she has been my rock for 40 years now.”

    Back to winners’ list

    Team of the Year – Adults: Hospital In-Reach Team, Bracknell Forest Council

    Bracknell Forest Council's Hospital In-Reach TeamBracknell Forest’s Hospital In-Reach Team might be small but size hasn’t held it back. Its senior practitioner, assistant care manager and three social workers work in three large regional acute hospitals, where they manage and plan discharges for up to 100 people at any one time.

    Yet this tight-knit team excels in its work. It performs above average on the percentage of people who stay in the community 91 days after discharge, with 88.8% remaining in the community versus the national average of 81.5%. It also outpaces other authorities on delayed discharges. While the national average is 9.5 delayed transfers per 100,000 population, the team manages an impressively low 3.2 delayed transfers per 100,000 people.

    In some ways the team’s small size helps it succeed, resulting in strong communication, clear accountability, and a shared sense of purpose underpinned by a genuine passion for hospital social work. Another feature that helps the team thrive is that each of its three social workers are responsible for one hospital. This responsibility not only helps them develop close ties with other professionals in that hospital but also gives them the confidence to make effective interventions that can help even those with complex needs return to the community.

    The team’s professionalism and effectiveness is highly valued by its health service colleagues, says William Tong, clinical chair of Bracknell and Ascot Clinical Commissioning Group: “With an increasing drive nationally to integrate adult social care and health, I find this clinical commissioning group fortunate to already have in place a hospital social work team that in-reaches to support the early discharge planning and is cited by all three of our foundation trust hospitals as a service others should aspire to.”

    Back to winners’ list

    Team of the Year – Children’s: CATCH Team, Buckinghamshire County Council

    CATCH TeamWith the number of teenagers needing local authority accommodation rising, Buckinghamshire County Council decided it needed a fresh approach to the problem. The result was the Children and Teenager Community Help Team – CATCH Team for short. Launched as a pilot in September 2011, CATCH’s goal was to prevent family breakdowns by offering fast, flexible and intensive support to families with 11- to 17-year-old children in crisis.

    Consisting of two social workers and five social work assistants, the team offers support ranging from family mediation and mentoring, 365 days a year. Uniquely, through a deal with the Buckinghamshire Community Child Minding Network, it also gives families access to experienced childminders who can give families ‘time out’ from each other as needed, which helps prevent further deteriorations in family relationships. The results of the approach are impressive. Since starting its work CATCH has had 300 referrals but just 3% of the young people they have worked with have ended up in local authority care, compared to 35% who needed at least short-term care prior to its creation.

    In light of this the council has thrown its full support behind CATCH, turning it from a pilot to a permanent fixture and launching CATCH Team Junior for families with children under 11 years old. The original team is also helping to prevent breakdowns of long-term fostering placements.

    For families the service has been transformative. “I have no idea what I would have done without the support of the CATCH Team,” says one mother who used the service. “The support was there for us both 100% and has made such a massive difference to our lives.”

    Back to winners’ list

    Team Leader – Adults: Tracy Cullen, Salford City Council

    Tracy CullenOne of the many qualities that makes Tracy Cullen a successful team leader is her keen understanding of how best to apply the varied skills of her staff. This know-how proved invaluable when a residential unit in north Wales announced it was to close. As a result seven of the unit’s residents, most of who had spent most of their lives there, needed to return to Salford.

    The task of overseeing the resettlement fell to Tracy, who has been the team leader of Salford’s learning difficulties social work team for 10 years. Using her insights into the balance of skills within her team she created a small sub-team of a social worker, a nurse, an occupational therapist and developmental worker to handle the transition. Backed by Tracy’s support and knowledge, this team delivered a successful transition for all seven, including one visually impaired man who had lived in the unit for 30 years but now lives on his own with support.

    Tracy’s skills don’t stop there. She’s adept at translating strategic objectives into operational work and a leader who is unafraid of challenging views to ensure that individual service users get the best outcome. Her positive and enabling approach encourages staff to reflect on their practice, take responsibility for their decisions and think creativity, while her willingness to help staff access developmental opportunities and the consistency she brings to her role is further reflected in the very low levels of staff turnover on her team.

    Back to winners’ list

    Team Leader – Children’s: Michelle Newman, Plymouth City Council

    Michelle NewmanAs threshold team manager in Plymouth’s advice and assessment service, Michelle Newman oversees the handling of incoming referrals and the allocation of work to the service’s four social workers and three family support workers. Like many local authorities, Plymouth City Council has been faced with a rising volume of referrals but Michelle’s attention to quality and effective feedback to staff has ensured that its child protection investigations are both timely and of a high standard.

    Michelle has also worked hard to develop the service. She has explored alternative approaches to multi-agency working and researched youth homelessness, child sexual exploitation and remands to local authority care. Her application of this knowledge to the team’s day to day work has made a significant contribution to the development of the service.

    One fruit of this is the establishment of a multi-agency hub approach, which the judging panel described as a “big achievement”. Michelle is also an inspirational team leader, bringing out the best in others with her energy, hard work and enthusiasm.

    Back to winners’ list

    Employer of the Year: Derbyshire County Council (Adult Care)

    Derbyshire County CouncilAfter missing out on this award last year, Derbyshire County Council’s Adult Care service has emerged top of the pile in 2013. Its success is, in large part, down to a commitment to social work that defies the pressure to slash budgets. The service has continued to invest and support social workers through numerous actions that include pumping £200m into the development of residential and community care services for older people.

    Each of its 45 teams has a senior social work practitioner guiding the practice and development of its staff and the service’s leadership have a strong commitment to encouraging innovation and creativity in social work practice. It also runs a newly qualified social worker programme involving 61 people and has sponsored 33 employees to take social work degrees through the Open University. The council listens to its social workers too, appointing social workers to the group overseeing the development of a new resource allocation system so that they could influence its design.

    As Derbyshire social worker Carl O’Riordan says: “Derbyshire minimises the time spent on administrative tasks thanks to its efficient support structures, a well-resourced training department and its judicious use of IT systems. Consequently, we have more time to serve our community. I am proud to be part of a workforce of well-trained, motivated and supported staff. I would not choose any other vocation or employer.”

    All of which, say local service users, makes for a social work service that is better placed to support them. As disabled service user John Jennings says: “I have a social worker who treats me as a person, I’m not a case number to him.”

    Back to winners’ list

    Practice Teacher of the Year: Brian Mitchell, Calderdale Council

    Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell may have qualified as a practice teacher more than 10 years ago but, as those he supports can attest, his passion for social work is undiminished. He is a practice teacher who inspires others with his positivity and belief in workforce development as a way of improving practice. The list of Brian’s achievements is impressive. He has established and led a partnership with Bradford College, implemented new social worker job descriptions that make post-qualifying education a requirement, and helped eight newly qualified social workers complete their assessed year in supported employment during 2012/13 alone. He also established Calderdale Council’s Social Work Forum, which helps both adult and children’s social workers stay informed about relevant issues.

    Bev Maybury, director of adults, health and social care at Calderdale Council, also credits him as the man who persuaded her to back a Grow Your Own Social Worker initiative despite the “challenging financial context”. “His passion for service improvement driven through workforce development has shaped the approach we took as a leadership team to addressing the future of adult social care in Calderdale,” says Maybury. “The students and newly qualified workers who Brian has acted as practice teacher for are a huge credit to the profession of social work.”

    Those Brian supports describe him as an extremely approachable practice teacher whose love for social work shines through. As one social work student at Bradford College says: “Our group was more positive about their decision to be a social worker after meeting Brian.” Tom Dobson, a newly qualified social worker in his assessed year in supported employment, says: “Since starting with the council Brian has been nothing but helpful and supportive with my ongoing learning, professional development and specifically with the ASYE process.”

    Back to winners’ list

    NQSW – Adults: Ruth Aten-Shearwood, Derbyshire County Council

    Ruth Aten-ShearwoodShe may have only qualified in December 2011 but the positive impact of Ruth Aten-Shearwood’s work in the south Derbyshire town of Swadlincote is already clear. As a community development social worker she has played a pivotal role in the creation and development of Oakland Extra Care/Community Centre, a residential service for older people and those with dementia that is pioneering the county council’s new approach to adult social care.

    Her tasks have included cementing links with multiple agencies, developing protocols and ensuring that residents get the best support possible. Despite starting her career in such a non-traditional role, Ruth has excelled. She is now a vital part of Oakland’s work and is a dependable point of contact for residents, families and other professionals. She even developed a plan to reallocate respite beds to long-term dementia beds that has now been adopted by the council resulting in better use of resources and enhanced outcomes for clients.

    For the clients living at Oakland, Ruth’s contribution has been invaluable. “She helped me to get a place here and it has made such a difference to my life,” says one 100-year-old resident. “I was in a bad way when I came here but thanks to Ruth my health has improved and I’m so much happier.”

    With such an impressive first step in her social work career it’s no wonder that her boss Julie Heath, group manager for South Derbyshire Adult Care, says it is easy to “forget that she is a newly qualified worker”.

    Back to winners’ list

    NQSW – Children’s: Jennifer Skirrow, Southwark Council

    Jennifer SkirrowSince qualifying in October 2012 Jennifer Skirrow has excelled in her role as a member of Southwark Council’s children looked after team. Jennifer, who the award judges described as “inspiring”, has already established herself as a popular and valued member of team and someone who is not sacred of trying new things or taking on complex cases. Her willingness to suggest new approaches has had a meaningful impact on the lives of the children and families she works with.

    In one case she had to assess the suitability of a maternal grandmother to support her teenager daughter to raise her granddaughter or be a alternative carer for the child. Her team manager Helen Woolgar believed that given the history the assessment would reach a negative conclusion but the persuasive reasoning behind Jennifer’s positive recommendation shifted her perspective. Woolgar describes Jennifer as a social worker who focuses on solutions not problems and delivers work so impressive that she is “operating competently at the level of an experienced social worker on the professional capabilities framework”.

    Those she helps are also impressed. “Jenni is supportive and fun to work with,” says one 10-year-old girl she worked with. “She is always happy to see me and that makes me happy as well. She always tells the truth, even if it’s not good news but stays positive. She explained to me all about adoption, the good and the bad, so I could say what I thought about it myself. Now I am happy that I have been adopted but kind of sad that Jenni will not be my social worker.”

    Back to winners’ list

    See the full shortlist of nominees for the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2013

    Community Care is the official media partner of the Social Worker of the Year Awards. Sanctuary Social Care were the headline sponsors and sponsors of the Overall Social Worker of the Year award. Christies Care sponsored the Adult Social Worker of the Year award. The Lifetime Achievement Award was sponsored by BASW and The College of Social Work sponsored the Outstanding Contribution award.

    More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.